The Sports Car Club of America® is a family, and this family will be well represented at the pinnacle of international sports car racing during the Rolex 24 At Daytona, taking place Jan. 25-28, 2024. A scroll through the entry list reveals that it’s almost a homecoming for those who speak fondly of the SCCA and its members – and it gives all of us something to root for during those long hours of the race.
Let’s start with the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and the cars that will take on the twice-around-the-clock race that gets the green flag at 1:40 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 27.
How about a handful of drivers that we watched grow up at the track, now running in the GTD class? These are the GT3 cars that, at least at first glance, resemble their street-going counterparts.
Drivers like Patrick Gallagher, the second-generation Buckeye racer who climbs behind the wheel of the famed No. 96 Turner BMW M4 GT3. Gallagher is a two-time SCCA Runoffs® champ, winning Formula 500 in 2010 and Formula Enterprises in 2012 to launch his career.
Or how about a pair of SCCA “kids” all grown up and in the same car? If the Porsche 911 GT3 R is more your style, Alec Udell and Trent Hindman are two of the key drivers in the No. 92 Kelly Moss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R. Udell launched his SCCA career with Regional and U.S. Majors Tour races near his Colorado home, while Hindman bested Andrew Aquilante in an all-time classic GT-2 Runoffs race at Mid-Ohio in 2016 for his National Championship.
Is the Silver Star more your rooting preference? Kenton Koch was the January 2015 SportsCar magazine cover boy (and again in 2020) following his 2014 MX-5 Cup championship. He was called “The Next Big Thing” at the time, and it’s proved prescient as the 6-foot, 3-inch racer has made quite the name for himself in the sports car racing ranks. When he’s not driving the No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, he’s often coaching fellow SCCA members at road racing events, including Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tours. He'll team with 2020 Trans Am champ and SCCA Pro Racer and Club Racing driver coach Mike Skeen for a powerful 1-2 combination in the car.
Nearly mirroring the above paragraph, but in an Acura this week, is Stevan McAleer. If you ignore his Scottish accent, the “New Yorker” came to the states to give MX-5 Cup a try, promptly won the Championship, and launched a career and a new life. Like Koch, he’s a regular as a coach at road racing events, but this week will be the lone male driver in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3. He co-drives for 24 hours with Katherine Legge, Sheena Monk, and Tati Calderon in one of the most popular cars on the grid.
Before he was a sports car racing legend, and before he won the NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 2011, Andy Lally was a budget-strapped racer trying to do the best he could in SCCA races. He showed up to his first Runoffs as a 20-year-old and put his Formula 440 (back then) on the pole, leading two laps before falling back at the end. He rebounded in Formula Continental the next year for a podium finish, taking third and launching the career we know today. How good is Lally? This will be his record-extending 24th consecutive start in the Rolex 24, where he has six class wins. But he’s finished second in three of the past four years; you think he’s not ready to get a new watch in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3?
And that’s just a taste of the GTD class. Thomas Merrill grew up racing SCCA on the West Coast, which gives us a Corvette to root for if we want to go that route. Look for the No. 17 AWA machine, because we expect that car to be near the front.
Let’s not be fooled, though. While the GTD class is often the closest racing, it’s not the only class out there. GTD Pro cars are identical, but with only pro drivers behind the wheel – and SCCA is well represented there, too.
Neil Verhagen took the Club by storm in 2016 when he became the youngest National Champion ever, winning Formula F at 15 years, 242 days. Now a grizzled veteran of racing at 23, Verhagen and fellow SCCA member Madison Snow are two of the four drivers in the Paul Miller Racing BMW. That car carries the No. 1 as the defending champions, so yeah – they’re pretty good.
Tommy Milner got his start as an SCCA racer, following in his father’s footsteps, and remains one to this day. He’s become successful in his own right as a Corvette Racing driver, and stays in the seat now that it’s become Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller.
Amongst others, they’ll have to deal with Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Kirkwood won the 2018 SCCA Pro Racing-sanctioned Formula 3 championship and graced the cover of the February 2019 SportsCar magazine, and is now, of course, an IndyCar star in his spare time. The Vasser in his team name? That’s Jimmy Vasser, of CART fame and the 1986 Formula Ford National Champion at the Road Atlanta Runoffs. Not too shabby, either.
And goodness, if that’s not enough, we haven’t even begun to talk about prototype drivers.
Touching on those highlights and naming just a few, George Kurtz and Colin Braun are a venerable team every time they pair up, and both are SCCA members; Eric Lux keeps his SCCA membership active, as does Ben Keating. Keating, the Texas car dealer and racing ironman, has participated in only a few SCCA events but continues to be a part of the Club because he loves being a member with other like-minded souls. He’s taking this racing thing seriously, though, entered in both the LMP2 class and the GTP class – the man might end up with a watch for both wrists.
But let’s get down to it: Those of us who cancelled our weekend plans to watch the Rolex 24 on television are going to see a lot of the GTP machines doing battle for the overall win. And guess what? SCCA has a rooting interest here, too.
How about a blonde kid from Tennessee? Josef Newgarden made a brief stop in SCCA machines on his way to becoming a two-time IndyCar champ, but there was one memorable impression on the Club that was for pure love. Newgarden came to the Formula F 45th anniversary race at Barber Motorsports Park in 2014, taking on a huge field of SCCA racers when he was already three years into his IndyCar career. Did that make his new boss, Roger Penske, take notice of him and help him to the 2017 and 2019 titles? Well – let’s say yes, until someone disputes it. In his side job this week, he’ll pilot the Penske Racing Porsche 935 for that same boss, an SCCA Hall of Famer himself. And we already mentioned that Keating was taking on the field in a privateer Porsche 935 for JDC-Miller Motorsports.
Rooting for someone else, but want to tie it to your Club? How about BMW M Team RLL? The RLL stands for Rahal-Letterman-Lannigan, and the Rahal in question is SCCA Hall of Famer Bobby Rahal. You want an Acura? The Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti car is likely up your alley – Michael Andretti needs no introduction, but did you know he was third in Formula Ford at the 1982 Runoffs? The Cadillac Racing No. 01 car comes out of the Chip Ganassi Racing shop. Young Chip also barely missed a Runoffs title, finishing fifth in 1979 and third in 1980 in a Formula F.
That’s Just the Main Course
The appetizers are enough to dine on, with a four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race and a Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup doubleheader both happening as well.
The entry list is littered with current SCCA racers and members. We could give you a list, or you could likely choose your favorite car and find an SCCA connection. That could include the TCR cars, where Tom O’Gorman returns to IMSA after seemingly countless autocross championships and even more appearances as a coach at events like SCCA’s Track Night in America® Driven by Tire Rack. He’s looking for a Daytona victory in the No. 15 Rockwell Autosport Development Audi RS3.
Here's the best part – you don’t even have to wait until the camera pans to your favorite driver to see the SCCA in action.
We know you can’t have a race without flagging and communications, and as you can imagine a 24-hour race takes even more staffing. Most of the men and women in white, no matter if it’s raining, if it’s cold, or if the Florida sun is baking down, will be SCCA members. While the concentration of workers comes from SCCA’s Central Florida and Florida Regions, more than 100 SCCA workers make the trek from across the country to work this race. So if you turn on the event coverage at 3 a.m., or if you watch all night, know that a fellow member is standing track side to keep the event rolling.
If You Want to Watch, Here’s How
Mazda MX-5 Cup on IMSA.tv for free: Race 1, 4:10 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan 25; Race 2, 10:15 a.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 26
Michelin Pilot Challenge: Via subscription on Peacock streaming, 1:40 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 26
Rolex 24 at Daytona: Can be seen both streaming and on traditional television. All 24 hours are available on Peacock for streaming customers. To watch on television, tune to NBC for the opening hour from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET; to USA Network from 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET, and again from 10 p.m. to midnight ET on Saturday; then back again on USA from 6 a.m. to noon on Sunday before the run to the finish from noon to 2 p.m. ET on NBC.
Photo caption: SCCA member Kenton Koch is set to take another Rolex 24 at Daytona start in the No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3
Photo by Tyler Keller